One of our reasons for watching John Wick!


Monetizing the blood of a martyr: At the present time, our long-term friend, NAME WITHHELD, is living in his car somewhere near the Berkeley-Oakland line.

We've known WITHHELD since 1982 or 1983. We met him within the comedy world, although he's no longer performing.

WITHHELD is one of the reasons why we recently watched the xx murder film, John Wick. First, though, let's discussing the monetization of the late Dr. King.

We're going back now to a comedy show which probably would have occurred in 1985 or1986. The show was held at Charm City Comedy Club, the place where patrons were invited to "see next year's stars last week." 

(In fairness, we booked Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Maher and Paul Reiser, along with a long list of others. The most skillful performance we ever saw was done by the very good person Paula Poundstone, late show Friday night, late in April 1985. We'd booked her with one of her friends—Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.)

Back now to the comedy show which probably would have occurred in 1985 or 1986: 

We were performing at that show; WITHHELD was in attendance. We offered our observations about what were then the widespread furniture sales over the three-day holiday weekend which commemorated Dr. King's birth.

These observations got a good laugh, as they usually did. When we came off, WITHHELD said this about that: 

That's what people think they're going to see when they go to a comedy club.

We don't know what such people thought, but we recalled WITHHELD's remark when we saw this highly illustrative announcement late last week:

On MLK Day the league will have a five-game slate of nationally televised games on TNT and NBA TV, beginning at Noon EST. During those games and throughout the weekend, teams will wear custom Nike MLK Day warm-up t-shirts designed in collaboration with the NBPA, MLK Foundation, and Martin Luther King III. 

That's what it actually said! Using Google, you can find plenty of NBA announcements showing that this pathetic claim was 100% for real.

All day today, NBA teams will be wearing commemorative MLK warm-up gear! These selfless acts of commemoration are being performed in connection with Nike and other corporate partners.  

Back then, it was "storewide reductions on sofas and love seats." (Our full panoply of remarks would typically get a laugh.)

Today, it's league-wide T-shirts and sweatpants. Some behaviors never end.

A few months back, WITHHELD told us that he was going to see John Wick 2 at a drive-in theater that night. Neither one of us knew what the John Wick films were about. 

Skillfully, we Googled. We shared a brittle laugh with WITHHELD at the absurdity of the description which appeared at the top of the list. 

The John Wick films are often shown on basic cable. Recently, the original film appeared for free through our On Demand service. Mainly because of the New York Times, we decided to give it a look.

The New York Times came into play because of this ridiculous feature. In the feature, its two film critics, Dargis and Scott, presented a silly, time-waste compendium which appeared beneath these headlines:

The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)
Chameleons or beauties, star turns or character roles—these are the performers who have outshone all others on the big screen in the last 20 years.

We were surprised to see Keanu Reeves listed as the fourth best actor of the century (so far). When we read A. O. Scott's explanation, we were surprised to see the Wick movies cited twice as key examples of the brilliance of the great actor's oeuvre:

SCOTT (11/25/20): Is the melancholy, uxorious, dog-loving assassin in the “John Wick” movies a genre put-on, a paycheck gig, a midlife action workout? Probably. Of course. With (let’s say) Gerard Butler in the title role they would be slick, nasty throwaways. What Reeves does is give the franchise more gravity than it deserves, more humor than it needs, and the soul that it otherwise comprehensively lacks.

Only Reeves could have done it! At the end of the short precis, the Times included a third cite, in the form of a commercial tie-in:

"Stream or rent the 'John Wick' movies and other Reeves titles on major platforms," the uxorious paper advised.

Scott and Dargis seemed to know that they'd made a daring pick. Here's the way Scott began his sadly instructive homage to the century's fourth best actor:

SCOTT: Maybe you’re surprised to find Keanu Reeves so high on this list. But ask yourself: have you ever been disappointed when he showed up in a movie? Can you name one film that has not been improved by his presence? We’re talking about Ted Logan here. About Neo. John Wick. 

"Have you ever been disappointed" by a Reeves performance? When the original John Wick appeared for free in our On Demand, we decided to take The Scott and Dargis Challenge.

We weren't exactly "disappointed" in what we saw; it's more like we were appalled. We were appalled by what we saw in that film, but also by Dargis and Scott.

A few weeks back, we tried to do a series on BABEL AND GOMORRAH. We never got to the "Gomorrah" part, which would have involved the back-story of the way these two corporate stars are now framing the John Wick films.

When we watched the John Wick film, a few fleeting thoughts flitted through our heads. No country whose leading upper-end newspaper agrees to peddle fare like this can ever really hope to survive, we thoughtfully mused in part.

In real time, those films had been regarded with such disdain at the Times that neither Dargis nor Scott had reviewed them. The task had been shunted off to one of the hands, who had rated the films very poorly. 

The unparalleled greatness of John Wick 3 had been captured thusly:

‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Review: Keanu Reeves Is Back for Another Brutal Round

In “John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum,” guns have more dialogue than its hero and more capacity than seems technically possible, the spraying of bullets interrupted mainly to showcase another lethal weapon. Even more than its predecessors, this third installment in the reluctant-assassin franchise is, like most modern action movies, perfectly attuned to the needs of the foreign markets where most of its money will be made. Bangs and grunts and body slams do not require subtitles.

John himself (still embodied, to mechanistic perfection, by Keanu Reeves) is a man of so few words that he seems less the movie’s star than its wrecking ball—a human Cuisinart pulverizing an unending supply of foes...

Dumb as dirt and twice as filling, “Chapter 3” is a symphony of dazzlingly sterile, cartoonish abuse... 

Even though they're dumb as dirt, the John Wick films are now recommended for streaming. 

Also, Reeves is the century's fourth best actor. While you're at it, don't forget to admire the Nike warm-up gear which will be on display all day long.

This is the way our upper-end culture works. For a very long time, the various rewards have been too damn high, and the leading lights here in Our Town have been playing along. 


  1. tl;dr
    However: "we recently watched the xx murder film, John Wick"

    So, dear Bob, in addition to watching tons of zombie-show trash every day, you enjoy the worst cinema trash as well?

    Why are we not surprised?

  2. Interesting. I would've picked Reeves as the century's 4th worst actor -- and doesn't matter who comes before him. To be fair, the NY Times commenters panned this list for a number of reasons.

  3. Somerby disagrees with a film reviewer and Somerby thinks society is disintegrating because they sell mattresses on Presidents day and play basketball in commemorative jerseys on MLK day! Kill Bill is worse gratuitous violence than John Wick. In True Lies, Arnold kills 117 people. Somerby has just discovered violence in the movies! And he blames Keanu Reeves for it. Somerby has just discovered that advertising is one of the drawbacks on capitalism. And he blames pro basketball for that one.

    Somerby doesn't understand camp. He doesn't appreciate Reeves' inherent likeability. He is so wooden that he is perfect as a cyborg character. Somerby doesn't "get" such movies, obviously. But maybe that's because he doesn't get people either, consistent with my theory that he is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

    I hope giving MLK more attention (especially in the states of the union that will not honor his birthday) becomes a tradition, just like mattress sales. Lincoln and Washington wouldn't care and it does nothing to lessen their stature when folks sell hotdogs and barbecue on that Monday, or even buy bedding. Somerby doesn't support civil rights anyway, so what does he care?

  4. Nothing like a washed out mediocre comedian doing some name dropping on MLK day.

    1. Whatever flaws Keanu Reeves may have as an actor, he has been more successful in his career than Somerby has in anything he's tried. There is something pathetic about Somerby using his blog (which once had something important to say) to enhance his own own ego this way.

  5. Would the real John Wick have minded having basketball players wear MLK shirts? Would MLK? I doubt it. Abe Lincoln and George Washington would have just had a little talk with the owners about it. But times are different now, and that's progress.

  6. “No country whose leading upper-end newspaper agrees to peddle fare like this can ever really hope to survive, we thoughtfully mused in part.”

    The logic here is lacking. The Times’ actual review of the film was scathing. It seems to have matched Somerby’s opinion. If people had based their viewing habits on this review, presumably the film wouldn’t have been nearly as profitable as it was.

    Dargis and Scott, who don’t seem to care for the John Wick franchise, praise Reeves as an actor for performances over his entire career.

    Then, the Times, rather than recommending the film, lets the readers know how to view it, so they can judge for themselves. Kind of like Somerby did.

    And somehow all of this implicates the NYT in the downfall of America.

  7. 4,000 people died of Covid today. Jake Tapper was right that we are nearing 4,000 deaths a day.

  8. From LA Times:

    "Entertainer Paula Poundstone, an adoptive and foster parent who has been a fixture on the stand-up comedy scene for 20 years, pleaded no contest Wednesday to one count of felony child abuse and a misdemeanor charge of inflicting injury upon a child."

    She reportedly drove drunk with children in the car.

    Somerby considers her a "very good person." Alcoholics may be good people but they do a lot of harm to themselves and others with their drinking. There is no excuse for the things she did to the children entrusted to her care. Cleaning up later doesn't excuse or erase the things done while drunk.

    It is nice that Somerby is loyal to his friends, but it is hard to trust his judgment when he says stuff like this about someone who made a big mistake while abusing alcohol. Somerby hasn't had the nerve to try to excuse Louis C.K. here. Why does he think he can praise Poundstone when everyone in Los Angeles knows what happened? Good intentions are not enough to make someone a good person.

  9. Actors are people, even Keanu Reeves. They are also emotion workers because they portray what their characters are feeling and also elicit emotion from those watching, who empathize with them. To do this, they must put themselves out there in ways that Somerby will never understand.

    It is easy to sit here criticizing someone like Reeves. Somerby's cracks and slights come across like the drunk guy who heckles a stand-up at open-mike night. He should be ashamed of himself to take such cheap shots.

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